Featured Post by Sietske Meerloo Join her Sailing in Norway trip in July this year She runs a travel company for women called VakanShe
Back to Basics
From the plane I can see Finnmark, the most Northerly province of Norway. Finnmark is, because of its size, the largest province of this Scandinavian country but it is the least populated. I have a window seat and I can see the sea, impressive fjords and snowy mountains. After I had booked my adventure on board The North Face, I followed them on Facebook and loved the updates, photographs and messages they shared.
I am almost there, and I feel a bit nervous. Here I am about to go on an eight-day sailing adventure. Eelco, the skipper told me the route is a challenging one. I don’t know yet what that means, but I do feel that the sailing experience I have may not be adequate.
It will be a physical and mental challenge, but I didn’t want a holiday with cocktails on the beach, I wanted something off the beaten track that would inspire me.
The plane lands in Hammerfest, the most northerly town in Norway, 100 kilometres from North Cape. In the harbour I see the expedition ship and meet the crew. The North Face is impressive, much larger than the small sailing boats I used to sail with when I was a teenager. This is an ex-competition ship with impressive winches, numerous ropes and an array of devices that I will learn to use during the week to come.
On board the available space is functional and it slowly becomes clear to me why this is called traveling expedition style. Eelco, the skipper, shows me around and emphasises that I make myself at home. My luggage with my sleeping bag wasn’t on the same plane as I was, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem. The way challenges are being dealt with is quite laid back and this suits me. While we wait for my luggage to arrive, we do some shopping for the week and I get to know my fellow adventurer. She has a lot of sailing experience which does make me feel a bit insecure about the trip we are embarking on.
We’re off and we’re sailing through breathtaking scenery. Wide fjords, green hillsides and powerful mountains surround us. I can’t take my eyes of the landscapes and feel we’re sailing through a fairytale land but there is work to do and I am faced with my mediocre stamina and endurance. I should really quit smoking.
After a few days of sailing in absolutely gorgeous weather, we enter a small fishing port. Here we receive the weather forecast for the days to come and it looks like mother nature has some grey cloudy days with heavy winds for us in store. Our goal for this expedition is 200 nautical miles as the crow flies. But sailing against heavy wind will easily double this figure.
The next morning we start the more challenging part of our journey. The landscapes around us are painted in different shades of green and grey and the scenery still captivates me. I also learn new things and quickly put them in practice, I seem to absorb a lot of information and my fellow sailing buddy shares what she knows with me too. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all.
The sea becomes rough and I feel seasick, especially below deck so I try to be there as little as possible. My fellow sailor is also not feeling well so skipper Eelco, who isn’t affected in the lightest, is the one that gets us coffee, tea, soup and other snacks. At night we berth in a small port, cook a meal together, share some drinks and go straight to bed.
As the trip continues the fjords become narrower and the mountains on both sides of us rise steeply and impressively. Because we’re sailing though seeming narrow tunnels, we have to manage the winds that can suddenly change direction and increase in strength. We are tacking every five minutes and become a real team where we are all equal and have to remain focused and strong. One adventure is followed by the next, the head sail tears, time flies and we encounter the strength of nature by experiencing incredibly strong currents. Dealing with this requires all of us to be inventive, creative, trusting, open, focused and to be able to let go… wow, I feel I have gone back to basics.
At night we anchor in the smallest harbours and every day the word expedition gets many new meanings. The atmosphere, the surprises, the overwhelming nature and my self discoveries, all the while enjoyment in its purest form has touched me deeply. On the last day we settle in a small deserted bay with a view of a forest in its magical fall colours. On land we trek through the forest to the top of a hill. There are no paths, so the walk is rough but the views on the top made it all worth while. And when the sun peeks through the clouds I feel on top of the world.
At night, around the campfire we’re silent. This week has left me with an experience of a lifetime and I will need some time to digest it all. I got to know myself in a different way.
I am stronger than I thought and I fell in love with the absolute beauty of Norway’s nature and am forever respectful to her power. This was an adventure, like no other and a fantastic journey.
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